The Washington Constitution originally specified a salary for each Executive Branch elected official and the daily compensation and travel allowance to be paid to members of the Legislature. The salaries of the state-supported judges were set by the Legislature.
In 1948, the voters adopted the 20th amendment to the Constitution, creating Article 28, Section 1. That section authorized the Legislature to establish the compensation received by all elected state officials.
In 1955, the Governor’s Advisory Committee on Salaries was established. The Committee made salary recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature for all state elected officials.
In 1956, the voters approved the 31st amendment to the Constitution (Article 3, Section 25). It stated that compensation for state officers could not be increased or diminished during the term for which they were elected.
In 1968, the voters approved the 54th amendment to the Constitution (Article 30, Section 1) which allowed the compensation of elected officials to be increased during their term of office.
In 1970, the Legislature established the State Committee on Salaries, replacing the Governor’s Advisory Committee. The Committee made salary recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature in each odd-numbered year for the state elected officials.
In 1973, the Legislature raised the salaries of the elected officials. That action was met with citizen uproar. Initiative 282, limiting the increase for the Executive and Legislative branches to 5.5% over 1965 salary levels and the Judicial increase to 5.5% over the 1972 level was filed on June 12, 1973. It was submitted to the voters at the November general election and passed by 81%.
Between 1974 and 1986, several bills were introduced in the Legislature to create an independent salary-setting authority to set salaries of the elected officials.
In 1974 the first constitutional amendments were introduced in the Legislature. The House proposal applied only to members of the Legislature and the Senate proposal applied to all state elected officials. Neither passed.
In 1975, two resolutions were again introduced in the Legislature. SSJR 127, which would establish a salary setting authority to set salaries of legislators only was passed by the Legislature and submitted to the voters at the November general election. It failed.
The 1986 Legislature enacted ESHB 1331 to establish the Commission on January 1, 1987 contingent on approval of HJR 49, the constitutional amendment to create the Commission. HJR 49 was passed by the voters in the November general election and the Commission began its business of setting the salaries of the elected officials in the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches in February 1987.
The 1986 Legislature also eliminated the State Committee on Salaries and established the State Committee on Agency Officials’ Salaries (SCOAS). This committee reviews the salaries and recommends a maximum salary for state agency heads and members of boards and commissions who are appointed by the Governor.
Two referendums to overthrow the salaries set for the elected officials were filed with the Secretary of State – Referendum 45 in 1987 and Referendum 46 in 1991. No signature positions for either referendum were submitted to the Secretary of State for checking.
An additional referendum was filed in 2019, Referendum 80, there was a scrivener's error in the draft bill, the error was corrected and another referendum was not filed.